The practice of choosing…

…this was my biggest take-away from initial discussion about my work in the 12 week Critical Discussion: Abstraction group.

In some ways I have always felt like I’ve been trying to add too much to my work. I’ve even had colleagues try to tell me this in a variety of ways, but until my conversations with my critical discussion group how to go about eliminating non essential elements was elusive to my practice. We always record our discussions for playback and I must have listened to first discussion about my work several times, trying to grasp what this would look like for me and how to approach it. I always had so many ideas flooding my head how could I ever decide.  I needed to choose a set of materials and stick with those materials and go deep with my exploration of what I could do with them.

My sketchbook has always been a safe place to put down some of those ideas so I found myself searching there for some grounding. Through my sketchbook and reflection, I recognized my main interest lies in  exploring the duality of the human condition, particularly in the area of human suffering and hope. They co-exist, there will always be challenges, personal, family, societal. There will always be dark moments, and yet there is always hope. I decided moving forward this would be the place from which all my work would originate.

Next step was to really look at what fundamental elements of art making resonate with me the most. Color, shap, line, transparency? There are so many elements in art making but I wanted to distill it down to fewer elements that really resonated with me. What was essential. Here is what I discovered:

  • I wasn’t really interested in color exploration
  • I was interested in some shapes that could contain symbolism
  • I wanted some aspects of the work to reveal a sense of pain, struggle, and/ or history
  • I was deeply interested in materials, especially fabric, gauze, cardboard and anything textured
  • I wanted to speak to my theme of the “duality of the human condition”

I’m not sure how it happened but my thinking was beginning to shift. I could see that I could simplify my process to create an even deeper experience for myself. I could immerse myself into the place of using these textural elements to speak for me. They could act as my alphabet. After all I was so deeply attracted to them there was already meaning there.

I decided to move forward with these parameters:

  • Use of textural materials
  • Focus on light paintings with minimal contrast
  • Utilize the cross as a shape to explore
  • Maintain a keen awareness on how I’m feeling during the process to keep on track with my parameters

Here are the results using these parameters:

All three of these pieces had been in progress for months and had undergone many versions. They all seemed to come together when I approached them with this new clarity.

I can now see how “practicing choosing” can have a powerful impact on my work, and I feel so fortunate to have rounded this corner. I still have mountains of ideas floating around, but now I have a much more refined set of parameters to help set me in the right direction. I’m very grateful to the support, knowledge and discussion my colleagues offer in Cheryl Taves and Bill Porteus Critical Discussion Group: Abstraction

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